For Albertans craving a day trip that offers a touch of history, refinement, and a lot of baked goods, steep yourself in afternoon tea service.
High tea, or afternoon tea, is a tradition that dates back to the 1800s in England. The day’s largest meal was enjoyed around noon, followed by a smaller dinner, sometimes as late as 8 p.m. The long space between meals led to the creation of an in-between meal: afternoon tea.
These days, it’s an excellent option for a lunch that will stand out—especially for those looking to take some Instagram-worthy pics and for foodies who want a memorable meal with something savoury and sweet.
There are many choices in Edmonton and Calgary, along with other great options across the province. We’ve brewed up a list of Alberta destinations to get you started.
ELIENEKE’S BAKE SHOP
Barrhead, 120 km northwest of Edmonton
Open seven days a week
In Barrhead, a town about an hour and a half northwest of Edmonton, you’ll find an afternoon tea spot in the ambience of a local greenhouse. Elieneke’s Bake Shop is located within De Herdt Gardens and offers a reservation-only high tea service that rings up at $15 per person. The experience is truly a local effort: the garden and bake shop are both run by one Barrhead family, the De Herdts. While most of the shop’s reservations are for smaller groups, they also take larger bookings of 10 to 50 people; those bigger groups should give at least three days’ notice.
CRONQUIST TEA HOUSE
Red Deer, 150 km north of Calgary
Open afternoons, Wednesday to Saturday
Red Deer is a city that most Edmontonians and Calgarians have driven through, or at least turned into the Gasoline Alley pit stop region for a quick eat. But for those making the drive and looking for a more refined lunch, you can cruise deeper into the city to the historical Cronquist House, built in the early 1900s. It offers a Victorian tea Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Priced at $16 for one serving or $30 for two, you’ll get a selection of finger sandwiches and pastries as well as a pot of tea to enjoy in the ambience of the turn of the last century. You can call 403-346-0055 to make a reservation, or drop-ins are welcome.
PRINCE OF WALES HOTEL
Waterton Park, 270 km south of Calgary
Open seven days a week
The Prince of Wales Hotel is a must if you’re looking to transport yourself to a different time. Built in 1927 and overlooking Waterton Lakes, sipping tea in this essentially unchanged hotel will have you questioning the century, other than the fact you might want to take a picture of the view (and the spread!) with your phone. The hotel offers traditional afternoon tea between noon and 4 p.m. for $36 per person. The hotel suggests booking a reservation before you visit. If you have time, be sure to get a staff member to take you on a ride on the hotel’s antique elevator. Since the hotel only operates from May to September, it’s predominantly a summer-only destination.
THE NOBLE TEA HOUSE
High River, 60 km south of Calgary
Open Thursdays to Sundays
The Noble Tea House operates out of a historic home in High River that employs women recovering from addiction. Just a 45-minute drive from Calgary, this home received a complete facelift before the tea house opened in 2020. However, its historical Victorian features remain untouched to pair well with afternoon tea. You can tailor the $42 per-person service for vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free diets, and the bakers curate menus to accompany the current season. The teahouse also does a $65 “charcutier-tea” option that replaces the scones and cakes with meat and cheese for those looking for something more savoury. Reservations are required for both the traditional tea and charcuterie option from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Thursdays to Sundays.
FAIRMONT TEA IN THE MOUNTAINS
Three hotels; one located in Jasper National Park and two in Banff National Park
Open seven days a week
Of course, we can’t leave the province’s famous Fairmont Hotels out of a list of afternoon tea destinations in Alberta. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Fairmont Banff Springs, and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise have been serving afternoon tea since the era of railway travel in Canada. While you might not arrive via the tracks in 2022, the tea experience—and the mountain view surrounding the hotels—remains essentially unchanged.
The pricing for a spread of pastries, mini quiche, and sandwiches varies at the Fairmont hotels, with Jasper’s location the most budget-friendly at $45 per person. At Banff Springs, afternoon tea comes to $82 per person; Lake Louise pricing is set at $70 per person. All three Fairmont locations offer the option to pay extra to upgrade your tea to wine or bubbly.
If you’re staying at a Fairmont hotel as an AMA member, you’ll get a $50 dining credit towards on-site restaurants. Plus, members save up to 20% on hotel rates.